The Club Owner and the Bouncer [Part Two]
The first of three men on trial for the murder of gay night club owner Bruno Bronn, was accused of fabricating events.
Police made a breakthrough in the case after releasing an identikit of Coetzee, requesting information from the public. Coetzee was spotted in the Bo-Kaap and arrested on Saturday morning.
Coetzee’s lawyer, Jody Sampson, told the court his client had three previous convictions – two for possession of drugs and one for assault.
Coetzer, a bouncer at The Bronx, was questioned at length about his relationship with Bronn. He said he had enjoyed a good working relationship with Bronn, but denied that the relationship was sexual. Coetzer sniggered at suggestions that he was homosexual or bisexual. He added: “Bruno was HIV-positive, but always had respect for me and never tried anything with me.” He said the closest, physically, that he had ever gotten to Bronn was shaking his hand two or three times in the seven years that he had known him.
Nell said Bronn had told four people about his sexual relationship with Coetzer, and asked why he would have said so if it were not true. Coetzer replied: “I do not know.”
Nell said that, according to Allie, Coetzer had boasted about having a relationship with “someone in an affluent neighbourhood”.
Bezuidenhout, who is no longer with the police, told the court he received a fax in which Coetzer alleged that Toffa had threatened to kill him if he told the truth about what happened at Bronn’s home.
Prosecutor Carine Teunissen alleges that Coetzer, co-accused Fareez Allie, and Achmat Toffa attacked Bronn in his home, and that Coetzer, Bronn’s “right hand man”, had a key to Bronn’s home.
THE SUSPECT TURNED STATE WITNESS
A fourth accused, Kurt Erispe, turned State witness, and will be indemnified against prosecution if the court rules, at the end of the trial, that his testimony was satisfactory in all respects.
Erispe worked as an inspector in his mother’s security firm, and on the night in question was supposed to visit various sites to ensure that security guards were at their posts and not sleeping. Instead, Erispe drove Coetzer, Allie and Toffa around in the company car and during the evening dropped Coetzer off at the Bronn home.
Erispe told the court Toffa was a friend, but that Coetzer and Allie were mere acquaintances. He said he had not known Bronn, or that he owned the gay night club The Bronx, but he was aware Coetzer had been a bouncer at the club.
On the night of the murder, his mother had asked him to stand in for an inspector who had not arrived for work, and he had to fetch another guard who had no transport.
That night, instead of doing his patrol in the Clifton and Sea Point areas, he visited Toffa at his flat at Elbow Gardens, in the suburb of Brooklyn.
While he and Toffa spoke, Toffa received a telephone call, and Toffa asked Erispe to give Coetzer a lift from Goodwood, in Cape Town’s northern suburbs, to Sea Point.
Erispe did so, and Toffa accompanied him in the company car. Erispe said Coetzer wanted to go to an address in High Level Road, Sea Point, where Bronn lived. Erispe said he dropped Coetzer near the address about 11pm that night, and returned with Toffa to his apartment.
On the way back to Brooklyn, Toffa asked Erispe to fetch Allie, and they returned to Sea Point to fetch Coetzer. When they were near the address in Sea Point, Toffa called Coetzer, and said Coetzer wanted them all to enter Bronn’s home.
Erispe told the court: “I didn’t want to go into the house, and Toffa and Allie went in without me. About 10 minutes later, I looked up to see a BMW car speeding away.” The BMW belonged to Bronn.
Erispe, Allie and Toffa returned to Toffa’s flat, and Coetzer arrived soon afterwards carrying two bags, allegedly stolen from Bronn. Coetzer said he wanted to exchange the contents of the bags for drugs, Erispe told the court.
ABOUT BRUNO BRONN
Slain nightclub owner Bruno Bronn was a private person who guarded his possessions, his friends and colleagues told the Western Cape High Court. Dawid Human, who worked as a DJ at Cape Town’s gay night club The Bronx, said Bronn let people use his white BMW sometimes, but was very particular about his silver BMW.
He said an exception was when Bronn went on an overseas holiday and let his sexual partner at the time, club bouncer Frederick Willem John Coetzer, use the silver BMW and stay at his house.
Dawid Human, who worked as a DJ at the gay night club The Bronx said Bronn had told him before his death that he wanted to end it with Frederick Willem John Coetzer, a bouncer at the club. Bronn visited Human’s flat two days before his death and confided in him about Coetzer’s behaviour.
“He told me he wanted to get away from his house because he’s starting to get scared of John. He’s harassing him. He said he didn’t want to take no for an answer as such and he wanted money.”
Bronn had said Coetzer would constantly ring his doorbell at 3am or 4am and he would eventually let him in only because he did not want to disturb the neighbours.
Human said Bronn had found Coetzer on a set of steps one day and Coetzer told him: “You didn’t think you could get rid of me that easily”.
The Bronx closed down about a week or two before Bronn’s death and the manager had asked Coetzer to leave the club a month or two months before that. He said Bronn continued to pay Coetzer small amounts of money for occasional maintenance.
“His partner, Jonno, died about six years ago and Bruno was never the same after that. They were together for a long time and they made the perfect team running Bronx.” Gary De Klerk, editor of the Pink Tongue magazine said Bronn and his late partner, Jonno Isaacs, invested a lot of “passion, time and energy” in the venue.
Questions were raised about Bronn’s health and physical condition before his death. Human said Bronn was HIV-positive but had shown no signs of the disease.
Human admitted in cross-examination that Bronn had used dagga and the drug cat (methcathinone).
Bronn was last seen alive at about 8pm on February 6. His neighbour heard cries for help at about 11pm and later two people were seen running from the Green Point home, the court heard.
Bronn died of asphyxia due to strangulation, according to the autopsy report.
“You are guilty on both counts – guilty of murder and secondly you are found guilty… of robbery with aggravating circumstances,” Judge John Hlope told Coetzer.
Coetzer, who was a bouncer at Bronn’s gay night club, The Bronx, claimed his co-accused Fareez Allie orchestrated the murder. However, the court rejected his version of events and acquitted Allie. Allie’s cellphone records showed he was not at Bronn’s house during the murder. “You are acquitted on both counts,” Hlope told a visibly relieved Allie. “You are a free man.”
A second co-accused, Achmat Toffa, was also acquitted on the charges of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances but was convicted on a count of theft. Coetzer had given him Bronn’s cellphone to sell.
The evidence before the court and the testimony of witnesses indicated that Coetzer acted alone. Coetzer’s DNA was found under Bronn’s fingernails and it was his belt which was used to strangle Bronn.
The court believed Coetzer entered the home first, followed by Allie and Toffa. It is alleged they overpowered Bronn, strangled him and escaped in the deceased’s luxury car. They allegedly took with them Bronn’s laptop, cellphone, briefcase and a number of bottles of perfume.
Willem Frederick John Coetzer was convicted in the Western Cape High Court on Friday December 5th 2014 of the murder of gay night club owner Bruno Bronn. Prosecutor, senior State advocate Carien Teunissen, told the court both charges carried prescribed sentences – life for premeditated murder and 15 years for the robbery.
Located in Green Point’s gay village area, Bronx bar and the Navigaytion club above it have been among the most popular gay nightclubbing venues in the city for years. Bronx first located in Somerset road in Greenpoint, happens to be Cape Town’s longest-running gay and lesbian bar and dance club, and even a relocation across the road could in no way detract from its popularity. Wall-to-wall all-sorts mean the Bronx definitely had something for everyone. The commercial pop and dance music of the downstairs bar was in keeping of the original Bronx experience while the new upstairs dance club, called Navigaytion served up a more serious dose of music for the more discerning clubber.
The freshest sounds, the beefiest boys, and a truly up-for-it atmosphere guaranteed a time memories are made of. Bronx’s consistent and energetic atmosphere has made it one of the top dance bars in Cape Town and one of the best alternative bars in the world. Hunky topless ‘no attitude barmen’, thumping sound and Cape Town’s hottest Dj’s made this the place to be, 7 nights a week!
The Bronx rocked, pure and simple. This most famous club on Cape Town’s gay clubbing scene, was always packed with an up-for-it crowd, gay, straight and undecided. If you were nervous of crowds or having your butt cheeks pinched in a friendly manner, perhaps The Bronx was not for you. But you probably won’t have as much fun at any other Cape Town club.
The club was described as “the longest running gay venue” and “the best known gay landmark in South Africa”. Bronn was quoted as saying: “Crowd control is probably our biggest challenge.
The club made news in 2006 when five shots were fired at it in the early hours of the morning in a drive-by shooting. A security guard was wounded. Bronn denied the shooting had anything to do with the club. In August 19 2000, The doorman of the Bronx nightclub in Green Point was slightly injured when a car bomb exploded outside the club in a string of bombings in the Western Cape. The bomb, planted in a car, exploded just before 10pm outside The Bronx bar wounding the club’s doorman.
The venues were recently closed down as the building they are located in is set to be torn down and redeveloped.